The fear of internment of Muslim Americans is very palpable and real given the history of Japanese Americans in the US. This fear prompted me to visit Manzanar, CA, one of ten Japanese American concentration camps. Upon encountering the landscape I was reminded of Afghanistan--the mountains against the open blue sky, the dry earth, but also the landscape of forgetting. Whether it is the incarceration of Japanese Americans or the US’s longest war in Afghanistan, injustices are made invisible, normalized and forgotten.
Manzanar has been the site of multiple oppressions. In 1863 the US military forcibly relocated 1,000 Paiute Indians to make way for farmers and ranchers, and in 1929 ranchers and miners were forced to relocate when the City of Los Angeles purchased the water rights to the area.
Standing in Manzanar meant standing at the intersection of these histories of aggression. It meant confronting the grief, anger, and betrayal embedded in the land beneath our feet. What is denied does not disappear; what is buried must surface. What would it take--and what would it mean--for the U.S. to face its shadows? Tracing my own shadow with the searching words of Afghan American poet, Sahar Muradi, I began to explore this question.